Rohit Shetty is the most uncomplicated person in the film industry. He is all about work. He doesn't belong to any clique and the fact that every top actor wants to work with him today has as much to do with his track record of successful films, as it has to do with the kind of person he is. He is simple and straight-forward in an industry that is neither. He is the highest paid director in B-Town today (also the hottest), but it's the work that gives him the high, not the number of zeroes on his pay cheque. When most filmmakers are busy measuring their own success to each other, he rues the state of the film industry and it's future. He is 6'3'', and built like a hulk but there is a childlike quality about him. A certain purity -- that you hope he manages to retain. He definitely is one of his kind, whether he is shooting with a camera or from his mouth. Read on as he dishes about his upcoming film Singham Returns, breaking records and what's ahead...
Have things changed since we last met?
A year ago before the release of Chennai Express... Nothing has changed. CE did well. I am making Singham Returns and then I'll move on, I'll make another film.
Nothing has changed, such a big hit? You and the people around you?
People changed more than me. They start taking you more seriously.
But you have already had big hits before...
Yeah, but I have seen people changing around me. I haven't, however. What will I change now. It's been so many years...
But people are saying that you have changed.
People have to say something or the other, and they can't say good things.
CE held the record of one of the biggest hits of Hindi movies for some time. Comment.
I wasn't expecting it. But records will be made, and they will be broken, the way the business is growing. So I don't see it like a big achievement. It's not like, I live with that thought constantly that 'okay I made the biggest block buster last year.' I just moved on and started doing Singham Returns.
How can you remain so unaffected in the industry everything is about collections.
Because nothing is permanent. I have seen ups and downs, I have seen my dad working. I have seen the way the industry functions. I know why this person is sweet to me. I know why everybody wants to work with me. I can't let that go to head and think that all are my friends now and I have arrived and now things are not going to change. Two flops and I know that nobody is going to bear with me.
How is it that you managed to have hundred percent hit track record?
I don't know. It's just that I don't leave my connect with the audience. Maybe the niche audience or for the richer people think that I have changed but not my peons or my office boys or where I go to the gym or people I meet or where I stay.... I keep a connect. I talk to them. I listen when they talk to me when I am at the airport, mall or to a public place. I listen what they tell me what they liked or what they didn't like.
What is the reaction that you get from people that you meet?
They come to me with a smile as if.. I don't know like I am Johnny Lever. Even when some autowallah gives a cut to my car and if I look at him with anger, he will smile and say Rohit bhai and then even I melt down. So it's like they are happy to see me, and my films. I am talking about the audience, I am not talking about the industry.
You know the pulse of the audience. Is it also because you watch every film, keep yourself updated?
I watch every film. I try to go to a theatre and I have not been to a gone for the last three months because of Singham Returns but I see as many as I can I keep observing people, whether they are laughing or they are crying or they are reacting to a particular scene. So that's how I know what they want to see on the screen.
All the films have been written by Sajid and Farhad. They have turned directors with Entertainment, what happens now?
They are writing my next film which will star Shah Rukh Khan.
How much of the writing is you?
It's a team work. I can't say that I have my inputs like 50 percent. I write the film and then they do the screenplay and dialogues. It's just a team which works well together. We give them a draft. Yunus and I write together, then they come with their draft and then we all join together. That's how we come out with the final draft of a script.
Do you feel like a less of a misfit in the industry now?
I don't know... I am not one of those who goes out socialising, parties and bitching around, gossiping. I am not into that. I love my office, I love my team, I love my house, I love my family when I am there, that's it. I don't care and don't know what the industry is doing. I'm here, people are calling me, people want to work with me because I am successful. Tomorrow if it's not there it should not come as a shock to me.
Is there a sense of aloofness, because it is constantly at the back of your mind that you feel people are only nice to you because of success?
I would say 80 to 90 per cent of industry functions that way. I don't understand why. We are such a big industry and we are so popular but we don't have unity. If a film flops, people will celebrate and they will start sending messages. If it is a hit, nobody tries to forward that to say, 'go and see that film.' Though we call ourselves educated we don't have that mentality. We don't think about progress. We need to change that. Hopefully the new generation has come in and I think things will change gradually.
Let's talk about Singham Returns. Tell me five things that are different from the original.
1. It's bigger. 2. This is the first film I have shot in Mumbai. 3. The action, I can't say new but I have tried to give different type of action because after Singham, I saw a lot of films with similar kind of action so I thought if I do it again or even upgrade that, it will look old. So I tried to bring in something new in action, the techniques, some equipment. 4. Bebo is there in the film. 5. I don't know... There is drama, I don't feel it's over the top this time. All my films have been over-the-top. This one I don't think is.
It's more realistic, you mean?
Not exactly realistic, it is commercial, there is drama but it's not over-the-top.
One of the things that I felt when I saw the trailer, it looked a lot like Singham, was that intentional?
Yes. You see because what happens with mass audience is that when they come to see the film they will be prepared to see something similar to what they have seen. Singham is the most highly viewed film on satellite for the last three years. When they come in the theatres, they will come prepared to see the drama, the action and if it's not there, they will get disappointed. I want to keep all the ingredients but in a new way. So let's see...
But even Ajay's introduction scene looks the same...
In the trailer we have kept the shot but it's not the introduction of him. It's something else. It's in the middle of the film.
Although the film is based in Mumbai, you shot a portion in Goa, right?
Yeah I shot in Goa. There is a village portion which is shot in Goa.
Is it because of the luck factor? You have shot all your films there.
I don't know the luck factor but I love shooting there. I love Goa.
Why is it set in Mumbai and not Punjab?
Because the character is Maharashtrian. Suddenly if he is in Punjab, it will look very odd. And secondly when we made Singham we met a lot of cops in Mumbai who used to tell us why not the Mumbai police, so this time it is dedicated to Mumbai Police.
Did you say in your interview that you will not make another Singham and another Golmaal?
No, I never said that. But before the release if you would have asked me, I don't have a story for Singham 3, so I will say obviously I am not making at present but tomorrow, something strikes, then why not?
You are the highest paid director today. Did you ever think that would be the case?
I never thought that and I really don't know whether I am still the highest paid. But I don't think about that. I keep working and you know as they say that your work should speak for yourself. I think that's what is happening and
I thank God for that.
You know there is this whole trend of two directors now like Abbas Mastan, Raj and DK, Sajid and Farhad. Do you think you will ever be able to direct a film like that with somebody?
No never in my life. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I have been not trained that way, I have not tuned myself that way, so I will never be able to co-direct a film.
Okay if you had to, at gun point, which director would you chose to co-direct. Whose sensibility you think comes closest to you?
I don't think anybody is as mad as me. Rest all are sensible. Everyone is quite sensible.
Are you a difficult person to work with?
I am not a difficult person. But I know what I want. I don't think I will be able to share the film. I cannot make film with anybody. But I take inputs from everyone. I think that's one of the reasons why my films work. Because when my final cut happens, my whole staff sees the film. My peon also has seen the film. Everybody has seen Singham Returns in my office and they have given their suggestion and then we work accordingly. Like when we made the first draft of Chennai Express promo, they rejected it. One of my team members said 'aap ka picture nahi lag raha hai saab'. Then we had to work again.
One director whose films you are always eager to see?
There are so many directors acting in movies now. Karan Johar, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Sudhir Mishra, Farah Khan, Sajid Khan have done it, if you were offered a full fledged role, would you do it?
No. I won't take it up. I am not a good actor. I won't enjoy it. Also, I will be very uncomfortable. I am trained for television now. I can host very well. If somebody is giving me an award, I will host an award show also for free (laughs) That's how it happens right? So I don't mind doing that if they give me an award. I'll charge also, but I won't act. When I face the camera for Khatron Ke Khiladi, it's hosting and I am being myself. But I can't play someone else.
Every actor in the country today wants to work with you, who is the one actor that you want to work with.
But you have in Bol Bachchan?
It was a small role, but I want a full fledged film with him. That's my dream, otherwise sab theek hai.
Is it difficult to be a producer as well as a director?
Not really because things have changed now. You have a corporate house funding you. And you need to draw a line when you are a producer, you should not go overboard and at the same time, you should not think paise bacha lete hain iss film mein, that's not right. You should not compromise on that. It gives you a bit more liberty. At the end of the day you are a producer so you can you can push the boundaries where budgets are concerned and you'll see that in Singham Returns. I think it's one of the costliest films I have made.
You once said that you want to move to Goa and only come when you are shooting and go back.
I would love to. I haven't done that yet because my PR, my family, my staff are controlling me. I just want to leave from here and go, otherwise I will start beating up people.
Why so much rage?
I am a kind of a person if I have a problem with someone, that person will know for sure. I am not into backbiting, gossiping and bitching. When I hear things about me or people talking shit about me, I really get wild because I don't do that. You know me for so many years, you know that. I will ask what he is doing or what she is doing or what is happening. I wish everyone would just mind their own business.
But you are a celebrity and you are successful. People are going to talk...
I know but they just cross their boundaries sometimes which irritates me and I try to change but I am not able to change myself.
Having done successfully comedy and action, what do you enjoying doing more?
I enjoy making a film which I love. It's not about the genre. It's like I enjoyed Chennai Express when we were making the film and I enjoyed Singham Returns. So I need to enjoy, genre is secondary.
But do you see yourself making an out and out romance film some day?
I don't know. See I get scared honestly, how the audience will take. You know if stars are not flying and if there is no drama, if there is no comedy then what will happen. I do get scared to be very honest. There have been scripts that we have had when I was making Golmaal. They are all lying in my cupboard now because I feel I can't make that film or maybe I'll make but at present I'm scared.
Are you a romantic guy otherwise?
I don't know. I don't think so, no.
Yeah, you don't seem. Do you see yourself becoming a production house like Yashraj films?
I don't know but I want to. My dream is to have a studio like Yashraj, that's my dream. I want to be progressive, I want the industry to progress. Once they stop all this bitching and fighting and gossiping, and everything comes together, I think we can do a lot. We are in a country which has 120 crore people. Only three crore are watching films. We are not working on that. We are just fighting.
Absolutely. But how do you work on that?
We all need to come together. Piracy is happening, we can stop it one day. All the big stars if they are on the road for a day, the city will stop and the government will take a case on that. Fifty per cent of the money we pay to government. Taxes are so high. Fifty per cent entertainment tax is there in Mumbai, in Maharashtra, nobody is working on that. You look at the condition of Film City. Such a big place but it's not the best studio we have. We can work on that, we can be progressive. We can make a transformation, we are not working on that. You need to work progressively, you need to think progressively.
There was speculation that SRK dropping in your set and the patch-up with Ajay was planned. True?
Why will I plan it? I think that's the most crappiest thing to think.
Would it be so wrong to get two people you are working with to end hostilities and become friends? Did you ever think of getting them together again?
No, if I think, then I'll make a film in which I'll cast them and earn money and the distributor will earn money and they both will earn money. Why will I plan a meeting on my set. I'll plan on making a film. That's more my way of functioning.
Yeah you are the only one who can get them both together...
I might, at present I don't know.